2008 Karuna’s Jaipur Tour – [03] Gochari

Published: 06.08.2008
Updated: 29.11.2012

27.06.2008

After breakfast Premji Bothra, Kanchanji Baid, Shivani Bothra & me prepared for meeting Sadhvi Pramukha & other Sadhvis accommodated near Anuvibha Bhawan. Monks & nuns do not accept food specially prepared for them; they only take morsels of food householders have prepared for own consumption. They are approaching householders with the soundless question, “Is there enough to share with us?” Today all this resembles to good administration work, when to go to which family and what to take from whom, communicated in a jungle telegraph like system to which I failed to find out the underlying mechanism.

When the location of Chaturmas is declared, immediately construction of prefabricated temporary buildings is started where during monsoon period lay followers are staying and preparing meals. In former times it very often was a question of survival. When the saints were passing their Chaturmas in an area where not enough food was available during the whole monsoon period, they involuntarily had to do fast, sometimes very extended. Nowadays giving Gochari is considered an auspicious tradition not only because of sharing with the saints such essential for life as food, but also because it is a celebration of the manageability of life basics. We had food with us, ready to share it with the nuns.

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Shrimati Prem Bothra (r) and Shivani Bothra (l) offering fruits to the nuns.

When we arrived it was time for monks & nuns to go for Gochari. Originally Gochari means grazing. Like cows are taking grass from here and there, never emptying a whole area the saints take food from different families. This process of going empty handed and coming back loaded with eatables naturally takes its time and also requires considerable physical strength. Usually two members of every group of 5 are collecting the food for the whole group.

They have to hasten because of the many families they are approaching and because of the schedule binding all members of a group to take meals together, unobserved by the public, in complete silence. After the meal, they are taking some rest, laying on a blanket or a cardboard only. I remembered my visit to Mumukshu sisters (novices) in Ladnun, when they explained to me how they softly were trained to sleep on two thick blankets instead of a mattress in the first year. In the second year the two thick blankets are replaced with a thin one or a cardboard.

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Smt. Kanchan Baid from Kolkata offering mangos to a nun.

Summer time is mango time in India, there are about 200 different kinds I was told. Sometimes different sorts are growing on the same tree. We also had a choice of mangos with us, offered by Smt. Kanchanji to passing-by Sadhvis on their way for Gochari. Some halted, others signalised to come again on their way back, as Premji & Kanchanji & Shivani had chosen a table for our picnic near the house Sadhvi Pramukhaji was staying with some groups of nuns.

First we had to take some food as the nuns only accept it for Gochari when it is visibly for the householders’ own use. The idea behind is to reduce sumptuary effort & to cope with every situation life is offering to them. Even when there is no food at all available. Self understood in their choice they are not commanded by likes & dislikes. Astonishingly well the quantities are attuned according to the number of group members, and I admired how the two carried the food (and the water!) for five, without any sign of being heavily loaded, just smiling & thanking to those who offered it.

During my stay in Jaipur there was heavy rain the whole morning until afternoon. I was in Anuvibha Bhawan and wondered how the monks & nuns would have lunch. They are not going out when it is raining. I heard some noise in the basement and was told that plenty of families had rushed to Anuvibha Bhawan to take their meal there & to make it possible for the monks to go for Gochari without having to walk in the rain. Another group of lay followers did so in the courtyard of the house where Sadhvi Pramukha was accommodated.

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Smti Prem Bothra with her daughter-in-law, Shivani Bothra, offering food to Sadhvi Pramukha & other nuns.

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Karuna giving Gochari to Sadhvi Pramukha & the other nuns.

Sadhvi Pramukha approached with some nuns. She very modestly, nearly without making any sound indicating her presence, appeared before us & kindly smiling accepted Premji & Shivani to draw her attention to this or that food item. Sadhvi Pramukhaji said that she would take a little quantity from our meal, and all of us felt happy to be involved in the process. Giving food to monks or nuns from own hand is considered to be very auspicious, and everybody around felt part of the good vibrations.

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Sadhvi Pramukha is looking up a detail asked by Premji Bothra (2nd left) in a book.

We continued our meal and then took Darshan of Sadhvi Pramukha and some nuns, before the doors were closed for about two hours because it was time to take meal & thereafter some rest. Shivani kindly drove me then to Jain Vidhya Sansthan where I had appointment with Dr. Shugan Chand Jain of ISSJS (International Summer School for Jain Studies). 

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anuvibha
  2. Bhawan
  3. Chaturmas
  4. Darshan
  5. Gochari
  6. ISSJS
  7. International Summer School for Jain Studies
  8. Jaipur
  9. Karuna
  10. Kolkata
  11. Ladnun
  12. Mumukshu
  13. Sadhvi
  14. Sadhvi Pramukha
  15. Sadhvis
  16. Sansthan
  17. Shivani Bothra
  18. Shugan Chand Jain
  19. Vidhya
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